I hate getting gifts.
Giving gifts is great, but receiving them from others? No thanks.
It’s not that I don’t want the gift itself. It’s just that I immediately feel guilty. I feel a strong urge to somehow make it up to the giver. No amount of thank-you’s are enough. Maybe offer them a hug? A similar gift? My firstborn child? It seems nothing is sufficient to express my gratitude, so my next impulse is to simply not accept the gift. They insist, I insist, they insist again and ultimately I’m awkward around them until time has erased the guilty feelings.
You can imagine my discomfort when St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body — which I embrace wholeheartedly — referred to the posture of “active receptivity” as an important part of the feminine genius.
Through a chain of little graces, God led me to a realization: receiving is itself a gift given.
Here’s what I mean:
If I’d brought home the perfect souvenir for a friend, I’d be hurt and let down if they refused to accept the gift. When we give gifts, we put a part of ourselves on the line, too. As the cliche points out, it’s not so much about the item, but the intention. All the excitement of making them happy would be shattered by their rejection, which ultimately feels like a rejection of me.
It follows, then, that no matter how uncomfortable I am when someone hands me a gift, I must also consider that I’m holding a part of them.
Swallowing my feelings of discomfort and making space for them to joyfully give is difficult. It’s a sacrifice for me. It’s an active decision to put their heart before my own feelings. It’s…self-gift.
The adage “in giving we receive” is true in part because, as TOB has taught me, in receiving we also give.